The NBA celebrates the players on the NBA 75 roster almost daily from now until the end of the season. Today’s honoree is Kevin McHale, the Celtics icon who, early in his career as the sixth man in Boston, was only half-jokingly described in The Sporting News by a fellow NBA player as “not really a athlete”. And yet, in this story, from the February 23, 1987 edition of TSN, he was called the best power forward in the NBA.

Who is the best power forward in the National Basketball Association? In the world?

Just ask any NBA coach, general manager, or player. Ask the Russians, Italians or Spaniards. Ask anyone who knows anything about basketball this question, and you can bet the answer will be Kevin McHale.

Who is the second?

Nobody is close.

How long has it been this way?

A long time.

So why has McHale been an All-Star only three times in his seven years?

Dumb fans, dumb coaches and Larry Bird.

And why has he never made the All-NBA Second Team?

Dumb writers, dumb gamers, and Larry Bird.

McHale may be an underrated superstar, but players lucky enough to be on the same team as Bird should be content with winning championships, not individual honors. Few have been happier than McHale, the 6-10, 230-pound Boston Celtics forward who makes opponents angry and is given the green light by Bird.

At the All-Star break, McHale ranked sixth in the league in scoring with an average of 26.4, third in field goal percentage at .603, and sixth in blocked shots at 2.43. He also averaged 10 rebounds per game, shot 83 percent of his free kicks, played better defense than any forward in the league and averaged nearly 40 minutes per game.

Pretty good for a guy who always gets ignored by writers and fellow players when voting for the All-NBA team.

“I think Kevin deserves it more now than I do,” Bird said. “I think he’s had a better year. He has done everything much better than in the previous years because nobody can stop him. Right now, Kevin is probably our most valuable player.”

But Bird has been the league’s Most Valuable Player for three straight years. Great, but should it have had a negative effect on official recognition of McHale’s greatness?

“I don’t think there’s any question that it gets in the way,” said Los Angeles Lakers coach Pat Riley, who has nightmares when he considers pairing his forwards with McHale and Bird. “I think so much recognition can go to one man who pretty much prevents other players on the team from getting overwhelming credit. What Kevin McHale has put up 20-plus points and double-digit rebounds every night is outstanding. I think he’s the player Hardest league to defend one-on-one. He gets his due, but he takes Bird off the team and they talk about MVP. All the time.”

Of course, McHale has given little thought to the less than critical issue of being an All-NBA First Team, or MVP.

“Maybe it’s the Boston influence,” McHale said. “Maybe it’s being surrounded by legends like Russell, Cousy, Havlicek, Heinsohn and Cowens. But the other things don’t mean much. When you look back, I will always have those three championship rings. They will be put in a place of honor in my house. Everything else, what does it mean what people say about you and what people write about you? Paper yellows. Those rings stay forever.”

That’s true. Still, it seems inconsistent for McHale to be recognized as the best in his position and then never appear on award-winning lists.

“There’s a lot of things that aren’t consistent,” McHale said. “But to be honest, I don’t think about it or worry about it. That’s the kind of thing where maybe, after you’re done playing, you look back and say it was cool to do this or that. But while playing, I don’t worry about it.”

When McHale gets the ball inside, he not only uses his exceptionally long reach to shoot over defenders, but he invariably gets easy baskets with a pump feint and then steps to the basket. When locked on, you can fire the spin, vanish at 12 feet with 60 percent accuracy.

In defense, he can stop any striker in the league one-on-one. NBA coaches officially recognized his defensive prowess last season when they voted him to the All-Defensive First Team.

“He takes a lot of pressure off me,” Bird said. “He can guard just about anyone — the big guy, the fast guy. I can double-team and just throw the ball to him, and he’ll get things done.” He’s a good intimidator and a good shot blocker, so you can run your man at him all night.

In short, he is the best power forward in the NBA. But you knew it.